Things I woke up to when I was younger: the framework for a full deck around the swimming pool, a missing half-wall surrounded by rubble where large wooden planters would one day soon live, and all the contents of our attic laid out on the floor to be sorted and prepped for a garage sale. My mother was a morning person, and I tell you this because while I, too, am about to label myself in this same way, our versions of what this looks like are worlds apart, and yet, and yet, they really aren't at all.
Whereas my mother was the Martha Stewart of diving in and taking charge of grand household projects pre-dawn, I am the slow and quiet type, a puttering poet of habit, mapping out my mornings by moving between books, pencil, paint, and paper. Tracing a cross hatched path from one shelf to another, and then back again, my morning beat and early hours are a kind of conversation between what's interesting me at the time, each one leading to another. It is quite possibly the slowest pinball game of inspiration that's ever been played. Putter; I putter.
Since moving into our new home, this puttering has shifted, and the shelves that once pushed me back and forth between them, each piece referencing and urging me to another, are now a place from which I pull, borrow, and return much later. Now, moments after I hear the first bird call, I'm stumbling out the door, hoping that the extra padding I keep on my behind for just such an occasion (special thanks to all that bread and jam I cannot resist) slows the screen door from slamming, thus allowing Andrew a bit more rest. Prepared, always, I balance basket on my left hip, a wire bound collection of books, paper, pencil, pen, birdseed, and peanuts. My right hand juggles a mug full of hot black coffee and my phone, and object that could easily fit alongside the other treasures in my basket, but which always seems to end up scrunched between my fingers and the mug handle, just on the edge of toppling over at any misstep. The first and more miraculous part of my mornings isn't the sun, or the bird's song, the cool breeze, or the new blooms - it's that I don't tumble onto my rump along the brick walkway moments after leave the house.
These days I put out another peanut every few pages so that my newfound friend Stanley, a handsome Steller's Jay, has a treat to punctuate the seed, heaven forbid he only have seed, and instead of shuffling around the shelves, I sit in one place with the sun and breeze alternating on my face, and I find what I'm looking for in what I have with me. These days I am offering myself more room to try new things with this time, the slip of pigmented water across paper, an attempt at a little humor while illustrating a childhood memory, just enough pause to write all of the things that have been on my mind. These days I am taking more morning for myself, if that makes any sense, and it's given me back pieces of my day that I hadn't realized I'd been missing. Waking up and making something, anything, whether it be a deck or a diagram, taking in beauty, anything, whether it be a quilt or a quote, sets the tone for a day of purpose, begun by being a participatory part of the world. I love that.
Some mornings the space between when I wake and when Andrew wakes is greater, some days only mere minutes, but regardless of our proximity, there's a bit of quiet we have with our books and thoughts, available to share, but also not requiring anything from each other amidst the silence.
I started this piece by quoting a few lines from Mary Oliver's poem, The Invitation, and though I deeply love the ones I share, I know that they are shared often, and people miss the rest of the poem, all of which is so, so good, and I'd urge you to click over and read it, but in case you don't, and you have patience enough to indulge me just a few more here in this space, when she follows those lines from before with these, in reference to the musical morning goldfinches:
As silly as it might seem, I sometimes believe my life changes every morning when I decide what I am willing to welcome to the day. In all honesty, I am often grumpy and stingy, so please don't get caught on the image of Snow White and some form of frolicking. These hours are good, so good, but they are also lived by me - messy, hopeful, doubtful, stumbling, bumbling, joyful me.
For my mother, these hours prior to everyone else waking brought external work, the kind that filled her heart and mind, left her muscles sore and happy, gave her problems to solve and end results - she loved a good end result. For me, these hours are internal, and the work I'm doing weaves my own thoughts with those of people whose work I love and appreciate. These hours give me time to read and draw, paint, and just generally practice without any audience or expectations beyond rising and offering my time to a slow meander through what's been knocking around in my head. Though our versions of these early hours seem so very different, night left us both so much the same - with too many questions and too little time, but morning, morning brought us the chance to work our way toward answers, and though our paths were, and are, very different, I like to think that she got to where she needed to go, and so will I.